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Widebody Challenger drive

2002-2008 Dodge Ram pickup trucks

The main changes for the 2002 Ram 1500 were:

Front-side picture of 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 - dodge trucks

The Quad Cab lost three inches in the cargo box (now 6 feet, 3 inches), while the cab grew by 3.7 inches for the benefit of rear seating, in the transition from the 1994-2001 series.

pickup trucks Hemi engine

The Ram gained fully-lowering rear windows, under-rear-seat storage, large grocery bag hooks in the regular cab, and an augmented console that can store a laptop and charge a cell phone. Allpar member JTE added that some aspects of the 2002 DR were aimed at women and families:

JTE wrote:

The B-pillar swing and the 100mm shift in the cab / box split were ideas that came out of my department and had to be “sold” to management. We built a test truck with a C-pillar swung door on the right and a B-pillar swung door on the left, parked it between two other cars, then surveyed everyone’s opinion at JTE. The biggest obstacle was apprehension of the market’s acceptance to being the first club cab sized truck with conventional rear doors.

After the door swing was accepted, we then built the 100mm shifted buck. Some people thought a box less than six feet would be detrimental to some buyers, but we loaded a tech’s dirt bike in the back then took it to a meeting to show management, then it was all of a sudden okay. Everyone loved the extra room in the back seat and the storage opportunities it brought.

2002 - 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 drivetrain

The 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 started out with the 45RFE automatic from the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was a very pleasant transmission, which, including a helpful passing gear, actually has five speeds. Based on our experience, it was both more responsive and smoother than the older transmissions. (This transmission was not available with the 360 engine).

The 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 featured two new engines at first. The base engine was a 3.7 liter V6, smaller but more powerful than the old 3.9, with 210 horsepower instead of 175. The 3.7 was based on the new 4.7 V8, just as the old 3.9 was based on the 5.2 V8, whose basic design dated back to the 1950s. Both engines had the same torque, 230 lb-ft. The new engine was more fuel efficient by about 1 mpg, as well as more powerful.

Click here for more information on the new Hemi for Dodge trucks!

The 3.7 liter V6, by the way, was 225.6 cid - yes, the press materials refer to it that way, though all other displacements were rounded off.

The 4.7 V8 from the Grand Cherokee replaced the 318, increasing power slightly (to 235 hp) while raising gas mileage, again by 1 mpg. This was a smooth, quiet engine on the Grand Cherokee, more pleasant to drive than the 318 - though we really hate to admit it.

Rumble Bee pickup

The 360 V8 was replaced in 2004 when the new Hemi line of engines came out with more power and better economy - and cheaper assembly costs. (Review!) The 5.7-liter HEMI Magnum engine increased the Ram 1500's Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) by 500 lbs. to 14,000 lbs., versus the 5.9-liter Magnum-equipped Ram 1500. The Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR) increased by 550 lbs. to 9200 lbs. Fuel efficiency was also improved by 10 percent over the 5.9-liter, while the new HEMI Magnum engine was approximately 60 lbs. lighter in weight.

The Ram 1500's towing capacity was 350 lb above the Silverado and F-150, but its payload was about 160 lb less than the Chevy and 125 lb less than the Ford. Its base V8 had 235 horsepower, 35 hp less than the Chevy and 15 hp more than the Ford.

. Regular Cab Quad Cab
Model Year 1994-2001 2002-2006 1994-2001 2002-2006
Towing 7950 8660 7650 8350
Payload n/a n/a 1567 1750

Dodge Ram pickup transmissions (2002-2008)

Picture of 2002 Dodge Ram pickup truck interiorThe new 545RE transmission (which debuted in 1999 on the Grand Cherokee) was available, but only with the Hemi. This highly responsive, fully electronically controlled five-speed automatic (plus kickdown gear) provided fast downshifts and seemed to have fewer parasitic losses than the other automatics. If you didn't get the Hemi, you had to settle for the standard 47RE and 48RE automatics, which were heavier duty than the 545RE and traced their design back to the bulletproof 727 Torqueflites (the main differences were electronic control and an overdrive unit). Both of these were optional with the V10 and standard-output diesel.

Also available were the NV4500 manual five-speed (5.7 and 8.0 engines; NV4500HD with standard output diesel), and the NV5600 six-speed manual (only with high-output diesel). (transmissions page.) The NV4500 and NV4500HD carried over from 1994 (and, in the case of the NV4500, earlier); the NV5600 was newer.

The new-for-2007 68RFE, 6-speed automatic transmission, priced at $1,575, cost about the same as Ford’s 5- speed transmission, and less than GM’s Allison transmission. The 68RFE had increased torque capacity, with a new torque rating 40 lb. ft. higher than the previous four-speed (now 650 lb. ft.) It was available in the 2500 and 3500 (but not the chassis cab.)

4x4 independent front suspension

Rack and pinion steering on both the two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive Ram models provided a precise and firm steering feel. The system was not only lighter in weight but was more durable than a conventional recirculating ball steering system. Steering ratios were recalibrated on all models, helping maneuverability and turning ease.

A new torsion bar independent front suspension [back to the future!] on four-wheel drive models improved ride quality and quietness. For extreme conditions, ground clearance was a comfortable 9.5 inches, while suspension travel improved to 8.5 inches from 8 inches on the 2001 Ram. The rear suspension continued to use leaf springs, but the springs were lengthened by three inches to reduce wheel hop and improve durability. [We welcome this change, since wheel hop was a shortcoming].

The 2002 Ram had an independent front suspension even with the four wheel drive setup, joining a very small number of 4x4s with independent suspensions - such as the Hummer and Tatra 615. Bob Sheaves noted that an independent front suspension-equipped 4x4 need not sacrifice ground clearance, thanks to the floating carrier housing patented by Chrysler (listing Evan Boberg as an inventor) in 1995.

Seventeen inch wheels were standard, with optional 20-inch wheels. The frame was stiffer, and as one would expect from Chrysler, noise, vibration, and harshness were all cut quite a bit.

Other new Dodge Ram 1500 features

Dodge Ram 1500 side airbag curtainProbably the most welcomed change among those who don’t own a Dodge Ram are the heavier-duty, redesigned brakes, designed to stop the Ram faster than an F-150 or Silverado 1500. Chrysler added adjustable pedals, redesigning the frame and crumple zones, making the interior child-friendly, improving the brakes, and adding side curtain airbags.

Payload and towing were both increased.

The two-door Club Cab was dropped, but an extended-cab four-door model, with four real doors, was available. The bed on the standard 1500 model was three inches shorter, but the cab was 3.5 inches longer.

Aerodynamics changes included an integrated air dam which helped to cool the engine and air conditioner condensor; and extended, tapered edges on the door frames to reduce wind noise and channel water over the roof instead of the side windows. Headlights were upgraded. The Quad Cab gained car-like doors and seat cushions that folded up to create a tall storage area. An optional steel section under the rear seats could fold open to form a flat load floor, with more storage in the footwells. The seat folded 60/40 to allow for carrying passengers and gear in the back at the same time, while tools can be securely locked. The powered center console had fold-down dividers, and the center portion of the seat had under-cushion storage.

Options included four-wheel antilock brakes, dual-zone climate control, an electronic shift dial for four wheel drive, and heated leather seats.

For 2003, the 1500 SLT Plus was rebadged as Laramie on Regular and Quad Cab, with cosmetic touches, seventeen inch aluminum wheels, eight-way power leather seats (driver only, except on Quad Cab), four-wheel antilock disc brakes, overhead console, map lights, universal garage door opener, compass, temperature display, and trip computer, sliding rear window, remote keyless entry, alarm, woodgrain instrument panel bezel, dual zone temperature control, six-CD in-dash changer, wheel-mounted audio controls, and power adjustable pedals.

The “Work Special” Group had grey bumpers with rear step pad, grey grille and wheels. The Off Road Group (4x4 only) included a 3.92 axle ratio, anti-spin differential, fog lamps, heavy-duty engine cooling, all-terrain tires, 17" x 8" aluminum wheels, tow hooks, transfer case and front suspension skid plates.

Tow hooks were standard on Laramie 4WD, optional in Protection Group for 4WD ST and SLT, 2WD ST, SLT and Laramie. Adjustable pedals with manual transmission and AM/FM stereo with six-disc in-dash CD were optional. The steering wheel-mounted audio controls were packaged with AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and CD player or an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and six-disc in-dash CD changer -- SLT; both equipped with 11-speaker Infinity system. There was an electronic throttle control on the 5.7-liter Hemi Magnum V8 engine. Automatic locking retractor was added to passenger seat belts.

The 2004 Dodge Laramie package added an all-chrome grille surround and chrome billet grille center. Chrome bodyside moldings and a revised interior, with silver trim adorning the door panels and the instrument panel bezels, distinguished the Laramie from the SLT. The Laramie had a different leather seat, with higher contrast color seat inserts.

UConnect(TM) hands-free cellular with Bluetooth(TM) technology and a new integrated radio/navigation system were available in the Fall of 2003 on 2004 models. The 2004s also gained a full-time four-wheel drive system and electric shift two-speed transfer case, which delivered 48 percent of the torque to the front wheels and 52 percent to the rear wheels under normal conditions.

A new “Tow/Haul” had crisper shifts and reduced gear searching when towing; it selected a lower gear in downhill conditions to add engine braking. A new 34-gallon gas tank was optional on Ram Quad Cab standard bed trucks.

Special pickups

Dodge Ram Daytona

The original Dodge Charger Daytona set a 200+ mph speed record and won numerous NASCAR races; buyers could get a 160-180 mph top speed out of the showroom. The 2005 Dodge Ram Daytona was hardly the same thing, but added 20-inch chrome wheels, unique paint, an 11 inch rear spoiler, a hood scoop, Borla exhaust with side-exiting chrome tips, a body-colored grille, and tail lamp guards.

The only colors were Go ManGo! and metallic silver; the same colors were used on the dash center bezels, and each truck had a numbered dash plaque. It was sold in rear and four wheel drive, with regular and Quad Cab, and six foot beds. The Hemi had the usual 345 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque, and pushed power through a five speed automatic and 3.92:1 rear axle ratio. The price started at $32,000.

Mega Cab

In 2006, Dodge launched the Dodge Ram Mega Cab, a Ram 2500 with the industry's largest cab. The rear seats reclined by 37°, and with the diesel engine, one could get 19-20 mpg on the highway (good for a 3/4 ton full sized pickup).

dodge ram megacab

It had a shortened 6.5 foot bed; the standard engine was the Hemi. We reviewed the Dodge Ram Mega Cab, which was dropped after the 2008 model year (in the 2009 Dodge Ram pickups).


Created by Performance West Group, the Dodge Ram 3500 Interstate Rated was based on the Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab 1-ton Dually 4x4, with the Cummins 610 Turbo Diesel.

Performance West Ram

At just a whisper above idle, the Ram 3500 Interstate Rated could clean-break over 11 tons of rolling weight.  It was available from Dodge dealers nationwide.

dodge power wagon - size

The Dodge Power Wagon, similarly, was launched from this Ram series, with heavier duty 4x4 capabilities; and we reviewed the Power Wagon, too.

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